I arrived today in Nanjing China for a “High-Level Seminar on the International Monetary System” organized by the G-20. The one-day seminar tomorrow will be opened by Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China Wang Qishan and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. As one of the (relatively large number of) “lead speakers” I will discuss an enhanced role for the IMF’s SDR in the International Monetary System. The session I will speak in is:
Global liquidity management issues (including global financial safety nets and the role of the SDR):
Chair: Christian Noyer (Governor of the Bank of France)
Moderator: George Osborne (Minister of Finance of the United Kingdom)
Lead speakers: Alexei Kudrin (Minister of Finance of Russia), Yung Chul-Park (Seoul University), Olli Rehn (European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs), Hélène Rey (London Business School), Elena Salgado (Minister of Finance of Spain), Wang Jianye (Exim Bank chief economist), Kim Choong-Soo (Governor of the Bank of Korea), Jim O’Neill (Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management), Obaid Al Tayer (Minister of State for Financial Affairs of UAE), Volker Wieland (Goethe University Frankfurt), Martin Crisanto EBE MBA (Minister of Finance of Equatorial Guinea), Warren Coats (Chicago economist and former IMF official).
Other speakers during the day include Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the Managing Director of the IMF, Timothy Geithner (US Secretary of the Treasury), Robert Mundell (Columbia University), Jean-Claude Trichet (President of the ECB—European Central Bank). I will try hard to sleep tonight in my new time zone and to stay awake tomorrow.
China is amazing. Nanjing is only the third Chinese city I have visited and I will not really see it until after the conference which is being held at a lake resort in the countryside outside of Nanjing (The Purple Palace). It was the capital of the Ming and several other Dynasties and with many interesting things to see. Driving through Nanjing this evening I could have been in LA on the freeway system or in Boston in the long tunnels under the city (though the quality of construction is better here in China). The skyline is beautiful with every effective use of lighting. They even apply capitalist pricing to the highways (toll roads), which are magnificent. Beijing, which I have seen more fully, is typical of a number of major cities in China, of which Shanghai is the most famous, in their impressive, modern buildings and infrastructure. I have described Beijing as what New York City might look like if it were modern (i.e., not old and run down). To be fair to NYC, its charm and attraction is not (any longer) its buildings but its vibrant and very diverse cultural life. I am not able top judge that aspect of life in China’s major cities.
Walking through Beijing Capital International airport for my connecting flight to Nanjing, it was like any other modern international airport (Terminal 5 of Heathrow, Dubai International, etc). Well organized, efficient, clean and full of familiar shops. Very unlike the old, deteriorating, and unattractive terminals at JFK.
Chinese people strike me as more like us than most any other people (including Europeans) I have met. And who do I mean by “us?” I don’t mean Anglo Saxons like myself. I mean the hard working, innovative, entrepreneur types who are creating most of the wealth in this country like Google founders, Larry Page (American born Jew) and Sergey Brin (Russian born Jew), which also includes many Anglo Saxons like myself.
China’s dramatic growth over the past 30 years resulted from the Chinese government gradually freeing the economy from the bottom up, starting with agriculture. The state got out of the way and let individuals make profits if they could. And the Chinese proved to be very entrepreneurial. They are willing to work very hard and innovatively to make money. China’s real output has grown more than 10 percent per year on average since these reforms began and it came almost totally from the rapid growth of the private sector, largely individuals and very small firms that grew larger in the space the government allowed. What the government has done is provide the infrastructure (road, power, etc) that has allowed private entrepreneurs to get their products to market efficiently. They excel in every society they live in.
The Chinese (English language) newspaper given to me on the plane earlier today had an amazing article about problems with illegal immigrants coming to China from Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere for better jobs and pay and more opportunity than then can get at home. I found that amazing. The good thing about people working hard to get ahead is that it is not a zero sum game. They add to overall wealth and everyone gains.